Round 5 of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) to be held in the palm oil plantations of Johor, Malaysia promises to be an exciting round with no less than four former APRC champions and two Production WRC champions in the event.
2006 APRC Champion Cody Crocker from Australia is with a new team in 2007, the Singapore based Motor Image Rally Team and it has made no difference to his winning ways – nine events in a row on top of the podium – can he make it ten?? After an impressive showing in 2006 as a privateer, Rifat Sungkar was rewarded with a place in the Motor Image team and the young Indonesia has plenty of experience in Malaysia, having competed in the local championship in 2005. Former Production World Rally Champion (P-WRC) Toshihiro Arai from Japan joins the MI team for this event, a winner here in 2005 but not an APRC registered competitor therefore he will be competing for glory, rather than points. All 3 drivers are in the latest spec Subaru Impreza WRX’s and will no doubt be locked in a close fight with the ever improving MRF Tyres Rally Team driving Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9’s.
Japan’s Katsu Taguchi has a lot of experience of Malaysia having lived and competed in the local championship for several years, while team-mate Finnish Jussi Valimaki has no experience of the plantations roads and the extreme humidity. The team’s third driver young Indian, Gaurav Gill rejoins in Malaysia after his big crash in Round 1 New Caledonia, where he wrote off his Mitsubishi on Stage 3.
Three times APRC champion and the first Asian P-WRC Champion Karamjit Singh has just taken delivery of his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8 rally car and it will be interesting to see how he measures up after such along layoff. Singh’s vast experience of the Malaysian climatic conditions will no doubt be of huge value – and if it rains the former champ will be hard to beat. Singh is aiming for a good finish to keep his new sponsors happy and will definitely have the home fans cheering him on.
Hiroshi Yanagisawa in the CUSCO Subaru will have his second run on the Malaysian event and after a spectucular drive at last months Rally Hokkaido, the Japanese driver will be looking to consolidate his championship position. Having his first experience of the difficult Malaysian conditions is India’s Naren Kumar driving a Sidvin supported Mitsubishi Lancer 9 – a six time winner of the Indian National Rally championship and currently 5th in the championship, Kumar is the first privateer. Other notable entries include the Indonesian Pertamina GG Rally Team with Subhan Aksa and Akbar Hadianto in Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8’s and New Zealander Brian Green a former winner of the Malaysia Rally.
Cody Crocker currently has a dominating lead in the Championship 14 points clear of his closest rival Katsu Taguchi with 34 points in second place while team mate Jussi Valimaki is only 2 points adrift in third place.
Ancom Malaysian Rally 2007 will be held on August 10-12 in the plantations around Felda Bandar Tenggara in Johor. The start will be officiated by the Chief Minister of Johor in Danga Bay on Friday 10th August at 9pm.
FIA APRC Championship Winners
1999 Katsuhiko Taguchi – Japan Mitsubishi
2000 Possum Bourne – New Zealand Subaru
2001 Karamjit Singh – Malaysia Proton
2002 Karamjit Singh – Malaysia Proton
2003 Armin Kremer – Germany Mitsubishi
2004 Karamjit Singh – Malaysia Proton
2005 Jussi Valimaki – Finland Mitsubishi
2006 Cody Crocker – Australia Subaru